#30ThankYous “Day 24”: Olivia.

Hey kiddo,

I’ve been looking forward to writing this one.

I know the last few years have been tough. High school and college are tough, anyway; having to learn as much as you can, as quickly as you can, so that you can make these really huge decisions about the direction of your life. No pressure, right?

On top of that common level of stress, you have had to deal with some really ugly situations and cruel people–people who used their words and actions to slash at your heart and try to cripple your joy. At times, I know the shadows have threatened to creep in at the edges, choking out the light and hope you cling to. Yet through it all, you have fought to keep your heart open. Instead of growing more cynical and defensive, you haven’t given up on looking for the best in others, offering them friendship and welcome.

Some might argue that this kind of attitude is naive and recklessly optimistic. But do you know what I think? I think compassion and empathy are your superpowers. 

But like super strength and flight and any other superpower, these must be used carefully. You have to train yourself to know when and how to use them wisely, for the ultimate good of others, and when to pull back a bit and recognize danger–sometimes love demands you do battle against the darkness. But I hope you never lock these qualities away completely. You are stronger than you realize. You are braver than you can even admit to yourself. Your love for people is how you make a difference. You can take the grace you have received and extend it to others.

Thank you for not giving in to cynicism, and for holding on to hope. You bring so much joy and light into my life and the life of my family. You matter, sis. You are seen and loved. And I am deeply proud of you. As far as I’m concerned, you’re an all-star.

–d.

#30ThankYous Day “23”: Whitney

Hey sis,

Of course, I’m not going to leave you out of this.

I’m about to do something reckless: I’m gonna blow your cover. See, you have this “tough girl” persona you’ve cultivated over the years–the no-nonsense, take-charge, no-prisoners, tough-nosed woman who will stare down a charging bull just to make him flinch. Not for nothin’ either–you are indeed a tough cookie, and no one can argue that.

But see, I know the truth. I know that underneath all that armor and all that swagger, you’re a big softie. A softie who may threaten to punch your lights out from time to time, but a softie nonetheless. Like our mother, you have a generous heart and you love your family deeply, no matter how frustrated you may be with some of us from time to time. And you will bend over backwards to help out a friend in need, even at great cost to yourself.

I’m proud of the woman you have become. The way you are not afraid to be yourself, to take charge in times of uncertainty, to expect others to live up to the standard of excellence you yourself strive to achieve. Yet you can also be patient and tender, especially with children. That mix of strength and tenderness is sometimes confusing to those who don’t know you well, but it is a blessing to those who do.

I’ve really enjoyed getting to know you better as an adult. Growing up, you were sometimes challenging for me, especially when I was reminded by dad that I (as the older child) had no excuse for losing my cool when you pushed my buttons. I’m glad we’re past that phase. (I hope we’re past it!) Now, I just enjoy getting to hang out with you. Turns out, you’re a pretty cool person. It’s a bummer that we’re now a bit too far away to see each other that often.

Thank you for loving me and my family well, for being an encouragement, and for sharing your generous heart. Thank you for bringing your equally-excellent husband into our family. (I didn’t want to leave him out of this–I love you, bro!)

You often joke about how you’re obviously the greatest of the three siblings. Well, I do think you’re pretty great, so I won’t bother arguing the point. (Besides, it may get me punched in the arm.)

Love you, sis,

David